27 December 2016

2016 Polkies - Porters & Stouts - Ales Part 2

There is something special about a dark beer, especially as a dessert or in the winter. That's not to say I don't drink porters and stouts all year, but they just feel right as the temperatures head south and the snow flies. With over 70 stouts and 50 porters under my belt this year, these two roasty beauties are among my favourite styles and it was a lot of fun reminiscing about them as I whittled the lists down to the best 10 of each, plus a bonus 5 American stouts just because.  It could easily be 20 and some of my favourites were left off...I know, a real First World problem to be sure. Onward to the Polkie's for 2016's Favourite Porters and Stouts.

The origins of the porter are from 18th century England and they actually predate the term stout, which was derived from the name for a stronger porter. Although they did fall out of favour and ceased to be brewed in the 1950's. Brought back to life in the late 70's, they have grown to become not only a staple of most craft brewers but are increasingly gaining many non craft beer fans like Mrs. Polkaroo for their roasty chocolate and coffee combinations.

1. Collective Arts Stranger Than Fiction
Coming in at the number one spot is one from my Hometown brewers, Collective Arts. Bold roasted malt with a coffee forward and bittersweet dark chocolate middle. Hopped up finish to this one but not crazy, just enough before more lingering black coffee. I call it dessert in a glass every damn time and continue to sing its praises to everyone who asks...and even those who don't.  Easy to find and amazing in my glass.

2. Clifford Brewing Porter - First encountered on a beer cruise in Hamilton harbour, I am equally impressed by this more chocolate forward porter and it's outgoing and friendly creator, Brad Clifford. Smooth and roasty with some vanilla and a nutty bit before the sticky bittersweet finish. It is the first craft beer that Mrs. Polk liked and has led her to discover a world of amazing flavours. In the LCBO finally and looking forward to a Clifford Brewery someday.

3. Block 3 Brewing Guy on a Buffalo - Enjoyed on a humid June night sitting under the stars. Big roasted coffee forward porter with a creamy dark chocolate and smooth but bitter finish. Slow sipping but easy drinking. Plus it introduced me to these videos, which never fail to make me smile. Guy on a Buffalo on the Drunk Polkaroo's Youtube channel.

4. Muddy York Brewing Porter - Mrs. Polkaroo's favourite beer and one I could drink any time of the year. Low ABV make it easy to session them and the smooth chocolate note brings a smile any time we share a few. Bitter coffee and a delectable feel on every sip keep me heading across Toronto to get more.

5. Collective Arts Imperial Porter - An 8.6 % slow sipping, warm and boozy dark chocolate and bitter coffee surprise in the middle of December. Multiple trips to refill on this limited availability brew became necessary after the first sip.

6. Great Lakes Brewery Harry Porter
7. Barnstormer Brewing Parachute Porter
8. Cameron's Brewing Obsidian Rum Barrel Aged Porter
9. TWB Co-Op Pullman Porter
10. Bellwoods Brewery Bounty Hunter

As mentioned, a descendant of the noble Porter, Stouts now occupy a special place in my heart for helping me learn to slow sip and enjoy all that happens to a beer as it warms up. From barrel aging to adding cherries or other fruit, these big roasted beers are in my glass all year long.

1. Nickel Brook Brewing Café Del Bastardo
As stouts go, this 12% ABV Pilot Project from Nickel Brook stands out today, even 10 months later. A late February pickup, this very coffee forward, vanilla, oaky bourbon, dark chocolate and warming alcohol made me take notice that I was in for something special. Rumour has it that we may see it again and one can hope that this amazing beer would make its way into my glass again. And this time I'll make sure I buy many, many more bottles.

2. Grand River Brewing Russian Gun - Big, bold and rebranded in Tall Boys. This Russian Imperial has loads of dark chocolate, licorice, nuts and a warming booziness. Cocoa on the back with a coffee bitterness. 8 % of delicious in a can.

3. Amsterdam Brewing 2014 Tempest Imperial Stout - My first ever cellared beer, I hung onto this one for 15 months before caving in and trying it. 9.0 % and smooth with big coffee up front, dark chocolate and then the warming boozy backend with dark fruits and figs lingering with more coffee and cocoa. Worth the wait.

4. Brasserie Dieu De Ciel Peche Mortal (Quebec) - From our trip to Tabernac in Quebec city comes this Imperial 9.5 % Coffee stout. Creamy and smooth but with a big black coffee punch. Cocoa on the sticky backend with coffee again dominating the finish with some residual hoppiness. Brought some home and shared...1 left in the beer cellar and that's it.

5. Nickel Brook Brewing Bolshevik Bastard - The basis for all the amazing connotations of barrel aged stouts from this Burlington Brewer was released in Tall boys in late fall to great fanfare. Smooth and creamy with bittersweet cocoa, licorice, tobacco and a warming boozy coffee finish. A staple in the winter for me.

6. Beau's All Natural Brewing Tom Green
7. Muskoka Brewery Shinnicked Stout
8. Great lakes Brewery 2015 Solstice Stout
9. Niagara Oast House Brewers Bourbon Coffee Milk Stout
10. Double Trouble Brewing French Press Vanilla Stout

And now for 5 more from our neighbours to the south. I found these on a couple of trips and through a few beer saint gifts. Not better than anything we make up here but just as good and a joy to drink.

1. Founder's Breakfast Stout - From Michigan, this 8.3 % creamy coffee forward beer made me wish I had picked up 12. It was one of the first stouts that caught my attention with the roasty coffee flavours being balanced by a sweetness. A must buy when south.

2. Oskar Blues Ten Fidy - A beer saint gift from my friend Robin, this one is now available at very select LCBO's, mainly in Toronto. Dark chocolate, hints of cherry, molasses, and coffee. A 10.5 % slow sipper that hides that ABV so very well. Try one if you can get your hands on this North Carolina legend.

3. Stone Brewing Company Coffee Milk Stout - Only 5 %, this California beer brings a smooth lactose feel with lots of dark chocolate and a bittersweet finish with more of the same in addition to some coffee. Drinks bigger than it is.

4. Left Hand Brewing Nitro Milk Stout - Great fun to pour hard, my first nitro beer and one that sold me on the concept. Super creamy with dark chocolate, coffee and some hoppiness on the very sticky sweet finish. Just a damn fine beer.

5. Southern Tier Choklat - At 10 %, this one took a bittersweet cocoa front and balanced it with a bitter, hoppy coffee finish. Warming and boozy, it took my mind of the snowstorm that was raging outside.

There you have it my friends, my favourite porters and stouts from 2016. I can't help but feel like I've left some of my favourite children out in the cold but it was what I needed to do to share my love of these dark and roasty beauties.
See you tomorrow for the best of Dubbels, Tripels and Quads.
Oh My!

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